When a girl gains confidence, courage and character, she’ll become interested in exploring the world. Girl Scouts is full of adventure and can sometimes consume girls, and leaders, with wanderlust. What is a leader to do when their troop catches the travel bug? Well, Beth Abel’s Girl Scout curiosity led her to connect with The Girl Guide Association of Cyprus.
Beth, an original member of the GSCTX council travel committee and Oak Hill SU adult volunteer, took advantage of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) relationship to expand the travel opportunities available to girls in Central Texas. While visiting the island country of Cyprus, she established a relationship with a local WAGGGS representative, and together they designed a wonderful travel and learning opportunity.
In Summer 2017, armed with excitement and GSCTX council’s consent, Beth led a group of older girls on an unforgettable trip to Cyprus through a council destinations program. During their stay, Beth extended an invitation on behalf of GSCTX council for girls from The Girl Guide Association of Cyprus to visit GSCTX in summer 2019. The Girl Guides from Cyprus were shocked at first – they didn’t expect the invite. Although apprehensive, due to the size of Texas compared to Cyprus, eventually the Cyprus group accepted the invitation to visit their friends on the other side of the world.
In true Girl Scout fashion, Cadettes, Seniors and Ambassadors from Oak Hill SU troops got to work planning their guests’ visit to the Lone Star State. First, the girls put together a survey for their Cyprus counterparts. This helped them gage what the girls from Cyprus were most interested in seeing during their stay in Texas. Curiously enough, the picture the Girl Guides from Cyprus had about Texas was from what they had seen in movies. They wanted to see cowboys, cattle and anything wild west.
With guidance from their troop leaders and through collaboration from girls from Cyprus and Texas, the girl-led summer program was designed. Every decision made by the Girl Scouts while planning their new friends’ visit was made with their guests’ interests at heart. Oak Hill SU Girl Scout families will open their homes to the new friends from Cyprus for several days of their visit. Beyond being “fun”, there is more to being a good host than meets the eye – it’s about taking others’ needs into account and creating a welcoming environment for those who think differently and have different cultural experiences and expectations. For this reason, international relationships help improve a girl’s understanding and appreciation of diversity. In addition, through hosting and hospitality, a Girl Scout can practice the valuable leadership skills she’s developing.
Beth hopes to strengthen and continue developing the WAGGGS connections through this type of cultural exchange program. “True international friendship and true international connections happen when you have something as powerful as Girl Scouting and Girl Guides as a tie that binds,” said Beth. She encourages interested troop leaders and Service Units to explore making their own WAGGGS connections. Girls can also explore the possibility of participating in WAGGGS destinations programs, and troops can take advantage of WAGGGS Destination Centers.
Traveling opens your eyes to diverse cultures and helps you appreciate them through an immersive experience. Hosting WAGGGS sisters for a visit to our Texan culture also helps girls experience cultural diversity and practice leadership skills. These are great ways to incorporate the love of travel into your Girl Scout planning. Take your World Thinking Day interest to the next level!
WAGGGS International Friendship Badge
Leadership and Cultural Diversity activities to complete this badge will occur throughout the CY2TX’19 Trip Event. Badge will be given to all participants at Closing Ceremony